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Gang rape, torture, arson and killings - Rohingya Muslims share ordeal with international media

Sunday July 16, 2017 11:57 PM, IINA

Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslim women lined up to tell reporters of missing husbands, mothers and sons on Saturday, as international media were escorted for the first time to a village in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state affected by violence since October.

In November, Myanmar's army swept through villages where stateless Rohingya Muslims live in the area of Maungdaw. Some 75,000 people fled across the nearby border to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations.

UN investigators, who interviewed refugees, said allegations of gang rape, torture, arson and killings by security forces in operation were likely crimes against humanity.

Myanmar's government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has denied most of the claims and is blocking entry to a UN fact-finding mission tasked with looking into the allegations.

The government has also kept independent journalists, and human rights monitor out of the area for the past nine months. This week, the ministry of information escorted more than a dozen foreign and local journalists, representing international media, to the area under a guard of officers from the paramilitary Border Guard Police.

The reporters spent nearly two days in Buthidaung, a township in Maungdaw district of Rakhine state, where they were taken to sites of alleged militant activity.

They were taken to Kyar Gaung Taung, one of three settlements, requested by the journalists. Officials cited time constraints for the limited access.

Reuters had previously gathered accounts from residents by phone and from former residents, who have fled to Bangladesh, of brutal counterinsurgency tactics unleashed in Kyar Gaung Taung and several nearby villages in mid-November.

When a group of journalists insisted on speaking to villagers away from security forces, allegations of abuses by troops emerged almost immediately.

Reuters reported in March that 13 boys under the age of 18 were detained during security operations. They were included in a list of 423 people charged under the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act, which outlaws joining or aiding rebel groups.

At least 32 people from Kyar Gaung Taung village had been arrested and ten killed, said a village school teacher, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. He estimated that half the village's 6,000 residents had fled during the clearance operation.

Myanmar officials said a domestic investigation, led by Vice President Myint Swe a former lieutenant general in the army and a commission headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan - which is not mandated to investigate human rights abuses, are the appropriate ways to address problems in Rakhine State.

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